"What is spirituality?" asked Rena at breakfast. She's one of the yearlings. She and, obviously, I, were sitting with Steve Bees, Alien Steve, Greg, Charlie, Allen, Joy, and Karen--as far as I know, the group had assembled by chance. I'm not sure if she asked her question because most of the masters happened to be sitting there, or if that, too,was coincidence. She seemed to be addressing the group at large.
"Who are you asking?" asked Allen. "Because you'll get a different answer from each of us."
"Because we don't all agree."
"How can you run a school if you don't agree on what one of the degree criteria even means? How do you even know it should be a degree criterion?"
I thought that was a very good question. So did Allen, who chuckled. He was leaning forward to talk to her around Charlie, who sat between them, trying to stay out of the way and looking increasingly irritated.
"We all agree that spirituality is important, even though we don't all agree on what it is," explained Allen.
"That's screwy. No offense," said Rena, scowling. A couple of professorial eyebrows went up. They aren't used to being questioned that way, but they held their peace.
"No, it isn't," said Alien Steve. "They don't agree on a singular athletic pursuit or a single type of craft. What's the difference?"
"The difference," explained Rena, "is that they do agree on what athletics is. Don't you? All the different options are means to the same end--physical health and skill."
"And happiness and spiritual attainment," put in Greg. "Physicality is a way in, for some."
Rena looked at him, confused, but didn't speak.
"I still don't see the difference," said Steve. "Spirituality is the same way. There is a common goal. To improve ourselves and to learn to love better."
"Andy would have said it differently," I said. "He'd have said the point of spirituality was to get in touch with God." Actually, Andy would say that the point of spirituality is Jesus. He tends to take "Jesus is the answer" quite literally by answering an awful lot of questions simply "Jesus."
"Well, he was wrong," asserted Steve. "Andy has a good heart, but he gets bogged down in monotheism a lot."
"Who's Andy?" asked Rena.
"He graduated when you came in," explained the other Steve, Steve Bees. "He's extremely Christian. So am I."
"But you're not that kind of Christian," said Alien Steve. Steve Bees chuckled and agreed.
"What are you?" asked Rena, of the Alien.
"Really? So am I!"
"Oh, wow! How did you--? We'll talk later. Anyway, I don't think Andy was as different from the rest of us as he liked to think."
"Curious," said Greg. "I disagree with both of you."
"You don't believe in God, right? You're Buddhist." This was Rena again.
"There are Buddhists who do, but I am agnostic. Spirituality as I understand it does not require a God, as such. Also, I don't believe in self-improvement. I don't believe in the self."
"Who shouts when you hit your thumb with a hammer?" asked Charlie.
"Some illusions are very convincing."
"Ok, who here believes what?" asked Rena, pointing her finger briefly at all the masters at the table. "What is spirituality? What is the point of spiritual practice?"
"To see and understand the universe as it is, not as we hope it to be," announced Charlie, without hesitation.
"That's close to what I think," said Allen. "Except I'm more interested in the process of thought and perception than you are. I think you are more focused on what we see and understand than how." By "you" he meant Charlie, who nodded."
"I'd agree with Charlie," said Greg, who was the next one down from Allen. "Except my process also addresses the process of the mind, rather than its content."
"I disagree with Charlie," asserted Joy. "The truth is critically important, of course, but the truth--of universal love--only appears when we realize it. Otherwise, it's elusive. Charlie, you might say we need a search image." He grunted in acknowledgement. He has talked about how nests and tracks and so forth usually only become visible once you start looking for them. "So I entrain with the archetypes in order to teach my mind to recognize the truth."
Karen was the only one left. She did not initially speak.
"You agree with Greg, right?" guessed Rena. "You're both Buddhists."
"I have learned a great deal from Greg," said Karen, so softly I could barely hear her from my end of the table. "We share the same process, but not the same reason. He believes in reincarnation. I do not."
"Now that that's settled," said Charlie, "we should all change what we think, to keep them guessing." The others all laughed.
"I can't change what I think on purpose," protested Allen. "I can't even pretend to. I can change how I think, but I don't want to right now."
"What about you," asked Reina, of Steve Bees and I.
Neither of us spoke for a bit. We were thinking. Finally I told her the story of the bird in church the other day, and my reaction to it.
"See, I would have watched the bird," said Steve.